- Associated Press - Saturday, March 21, 2020

SEATTLE (AP) - First responders and other essential workers lined up at the Tacoma Dome for drive-thru COVID-19 testing, the Department of Corrections said inmates will start making hospital gowns, and Gov. Jay Inslee intervened to keep Target stores from selling face masks much needed by health workers Saturday as Washington kept up its fight against the coronavirus.

The state reported an additional 11 deaths Saturday, bringing its total to at least 94, the most in the United States. Washington now has close to 1,800 confirmed cases. Those numbers are expected to continue to rise.

Inslee said his office stepped in after receiving reports Saturday that N95 face masks were on the shelves of Target stores in Seattle - despite a dire shortage that has left hospitals rationing and re-using them.

Target apologized, saying the masks were being sold in error in “select Seattle stores” and that it was removing them from shelves and donating them to the Washington Department of Health. The company said it would also search its inventory for additional masks to donate.

“Target’s commitment to communities is unwavering & we apologize,” the company tweeted.

Inslee warned Friday that while he has not yet enacted more stringent social distancing requirements to fight the spread of coronavirus like those imposed by California, New York and other states, if people continue to ignore current requirements he “will go farther to protect 7 million Washingtonians.”

He reiterated that message Saturday during a telephone town hall with about 14,000 seniors from around the state, urging them to use the power of peer pressure to get people to stay home.

“We can influence our neighbors. We can influence our grandkids,” he told them. “We’re all leaders here.”

He urged people over 65 not to go to work unless they are in an “essential” job.

Appointments filled up quickly for drive-through testing slots at the Tacoma Dome, where health officials said they would administer 240 tests per day from Saturday through Wednesday to vulnerable people, health care professionals, first responders and other essential workers, including grocery store employees.

The Department of Corrections announced Saturday that within the next few days, inmates in its Corrections Industries program at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell will begin making protective gowns in response to a nationwide shortage. Production will then expand to textiles shops at Airway Heights Corrections Center, Clallam Bay Corrections Center and Washington Corrections Center. Eventually 12 Corrections staff and 160 incarcerated workers are expected to make up to 6,000 gowns per day, the department said.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin issued a stay-home directive to the city’s 110,000 residents Friday - believed to be the first such order issued in the state. Franklin said residents should only leave their houses for errands to maintain health and safety, such as picking up medicine, seeing a doctor or obtaining supplies, or for essential government or business functions. People who must leave their homes, or who do so for outdoor exercise, are asked to keep 6 feet away from others, she said.

Administrators of the sole remaining hospital in Yakima also urged people to stay home, saying at a news conference Saturday they feared an outbreak there would quickly overwhelm the local health system, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

“Everyone needs to go home now,” said Dr. Marty Brueggemann, chief medical officer at Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital. “If we do this, we can make a difference. We can reduce COVID-19 in Yakima, but we cannot stop it. There is no vaccine.”

King County, which has already set up several sites to treat patients unable to quarantine at home, said Saturday it was working with Harborview Medical Center to set up another such facility for vulnerable patients at a county-owned building across the street from the hospital. The building, Harborview Hall, currently houses an enhanced homeless shelter, but the Salvation Army has agreed to move the shelter for now to a nearby warehouse.

That will allow the county to open a 45-bed COVID-19 recovery center for vulnerable patients, freeing up more space within the hospital for those who need acute care, officials said in a news release.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.

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